First off, apologies to Russell – I knew you’d all be interested to see more of his most excellent Di2 equipped road bike, but it fell down the back of the virtual sofa and I’ve only just blown the e-fluff off it…
Here’s Russell on how it all got started…
I’d been curious about titanium frames for a while, and whilst on a break in Majorca I hired a Van Nicholas and rode some of the climbs around the north of the island. I’m sure the super smooth road surfaces out there helped, but the bike did seem to ride really nicely compared to my stiff carbon framed bike back home, and the idea of a frame that would last as long and be as easy to keep looking good as a titanium one also appealed.
I looked at some of the off-the-shelf frames from Van Nicholas and others, and had almost done the ‘man maths’ to convince myself that a custom built frame from the likes of Independent Fabrication, Moots, or Seven would represent ‘value for money’ in the long run…
Then I heard about XACD and decided it seemed like the ideal option – I could get the custom fit and exact spec I wanted at a quarter of the price of having a frame built in the US. I spoke to the infamous Porter about my requirements and pricing, and also to Eric at Titan Product. Eric was very helpful and slightly better priced, and although there was less info on Titan on the web, I knew what I needed was fairly straightforward and looking at some of their work I was reasonably confident they’d be able to produce what I wanted.
The tricky bit – what size and what spec?
I tested several off the shelf titanium bikes to be sure on sizing, and the best fit I found was the Moots Vamoots RSL. Eric at Titan sent me the CAD for one of their own standard 60cm frames, and I used that as the template from which to spec my frame. I wanted a slightly longer top tube than the Moots, and went for an oversize 44mm headtube to fit a tapered fork with a Chris King i7 headset.
I wanted to take advantage of the new Di2 drivetrain and to integrate the wiring as much as possible to get the smoothest looking frame – I also incorporated internal routing for the rear brake cable. The Di2 battery is fitted inside the seatpost, and the rear derailleur wiring exits from inside the dropout, whilst the front Di2 port is hidden at the back of the headtube – the wire then runs down and inside the downtube, and the front derailleur wire exits from a port just below the derailleur itself. All these changes mean I can’t go back to regular cable operated gears, but I’m so smitten with Di2 that won’t be a problem! I also went for a pressfit BB30 bottom bracket.
And how did Russell find working with Titan?
We went back and forth over a couple of weeks and 4 CAD drawings until everything was exactly as I wanted – sending photos with examples clearly marked helped, but until I saw a photo of the finished frame I was still worried they might not get the rear Di2 port right as this was something they’d never seen or heard of before. It looked right in the CAD drawing, but it was labelled in Chinese – I had visions of the guy that actually welded up the frame thinking it must be a mistake and sticking on a regular cable stop.
Phew! A large parcel turns up on your doorstep – what were your first impressions?
When the frame arrived I really happy with the results, the welding and the brushed finish look excellent. An advantage of the brushed finish is that when I dropped an allen key and put a small scratch in the top tube, a couple of strokes with a Scotch-Brite pad had it looking as good as new again.
I really can’t fault Titan’s work – everything is exactly as per the spec – the only thing I would possibly change if I could would be to go with double butted as opposed to straight gauge tubing. XACD were able to offer this (at a cost) whereas Titan weren’t. The frame weighs around 1.6kg, which is maybe 500g more than a carbon frame in a similar size might be. Unfortunately there is a bit more than 500g that the rider could do with losing before worrying too much about the frame!
Mmmm-mmm, can’t fault that one! Russell went out with a clear idea of what he was after; the custom approach allowed him the freedom of designing the frame around the unique wiring of the Di2 gears. The frame looks pretty straightforward but I love the little touches like the tubing that routes the brake cable through the top tube.
It’s a shame that Titan couldn’t do the double butting that would have trimmed a bit of weight off the project, although 3.5lbs isn’t too bad for a fairly large frame. Another approach would have been to go for a sloping top tube that would have given a slightly smaller and lighter frame, although there’s quite a bit of seatpost visible as it is. As Russell says it’s probably better to concentrate on the smooth ride rather than worry about the weight too much.
And finally – any thoughts as to your next project?
It seems myself and one of your other contributors, Shane, have the same idea about what to build next – the ultimate ‘second bike’. Titanium frame, belt drive with a Di2 11 speed Alfine hub gear, mudguard clearances and disc brakes. A combination winter trainer, commuter, and light tourer. I’ll happily use Titan again for this next project.
Sounds interesting, I’ll certainly look forward to seeing that one if Russell decides to go for it! Have you had a frame made in the Far East? If so I’d love to hear about it and maybe feature it in the Gallery (eventually!) so drop me a line via the contacts page.